Forward Observer: The VA Mission Act Is Enacted

LVMAC Poster Art 2005We thought it would happen on Memorial Day.  Instead, it happened on 6 June 2018 (D-Day).  The President finally signed the VA MISSION Act of 2018 upon which we have previously reported .

According to the VFW’s Action Corps Weekly of 8 June,  “ ‘The VA MISSION Act will help improve the care our veterans get at the VA while leveraging the capabilities of the private sector when needed. It will help recruit the best talent at the VA, which is what our veterans deserve, and it also extends caregiver benefits to every veteran who needs it,’ …  The VA MISSION Act was the result of a bipartisan and bicameral effort led by Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson, Ranking Member Sen. Jon Tester and House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Rep. Phil Roe, M.D.”

Attached is a very detailed summary from the House Veterans Affairs Committee on the Ac.  You will find a more concise one in the previous article.   Among its key features are the elimination of the “40 mile, 30 day” Veterans Choice program rule, making it easier for attending physicians to refer their patients using outside medical services when warranted, allowing walk-in access (the old VA used to have sick call hours), consolidation of a number of community care programs that operated similarly to the Veterans Choice Program but each with its own rules, a prompt payment provision,  emphases on rural healthcare and telehealth, and graduated expansion of the family caregiver program to all generations of veterans families (a righting of a sin that should never have happened in the first place: preferment of one generation of veterans over another with the same issues).  It is pretty good work for a bill that started out its life over the issue of providing outer burial containers for those veterans buried on National Park Service grounds (think civil war battlefields as an example).  Therefore, we doubt much of this would have happened without the involvement of 38 veterans and military advocacy organizations.

The downside is much of the Act can be considered an unfunded mandate.  Some legislators tried to establish set aside funding to expedite it, but the President and most legislators resisted this.  The worry will now be the “cannibalization” of other useful programs to veterans.  Efficiencies can be achieved, but only so far.  The VA has not always been the best money manager.  However, we can also remember how the President and Congress bungled the Veterans’ Health Care Eligibility Reform Act of 1996 by not funding it.  It led to problems that exist to this day, and set up the VA for failure.  Redux?  Hopefully not, for many of the measures help to define what patient-centric care and “whole health” care should be.

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RJH
9 June 2018

 

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